While countless visitors to the Czech capital set their sites on Cesky Krumlov or Kutna Hora as a day away from the city, fewer consider heading west to go on a Karlovy Vary day trip from Prague. Located in the western Czech Republic only about forty kilometres from the German border, Karlovy Vary is a beautiful spa town that has been famous the world over for decades.
Newly enshrined on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2021 as one of the “Great Spa Towns of Europe,” Karlovy Vary makes for the perfect destination on any Czech Republic itinerary, whether you go on a day trip or for a longer stay. Surrounded by lovely nature, filled with gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture and home to “healing” hot springs, Karlovy Vary is a unique and beautiful place to visit in this lovely country.
Karlovy Vary is a small city and the main sites can easily be seen in the span of a day, but if you do want to enjoy a spa visit, it actually can be worth spending 2 days here to make sure you have enough time. Located within easy reach of the Czech capital, read on to learn how to go and what to do on a Prague to Karlovy Vary day trip.
Karlovy Vary Day Trip from Prague
Depending on how you care to visit, there are many ways to visit Karlovy Vary from Prague. If you can’t be bothered to go independently (it is very easy and straightforward if you do), you can opt to go on an organised tour. The other options include bus, train or even your own personal vehicle.
Prague to Karlovy Vary by Tour
If you want to take the guesswork out of visiting Karlovy Vary, then going on a guided tour is a great option. There are lots of tours to choose from, all offering different things.
If you’re looking for a great option, then this small-group tour could be a good choice. It includes pick-up and drop-off in Prague, a guided tour through Karlovy Vary and the option to visit the Jan Becher Museum or to head to a spa house.
Another option would be this full-day tour which includes a guided tour of Karlovy Vary, lunch and then visits the town of Marianske Lazne, which is another UNESCO-listed Great Spa Town of Europe.
If you’re searching for another option, then this 10-hour tour will take you on a guided walking tour of Karlovy Vary, gives you free time to explore the town on your own and even includes lunch in the price!
Prague to Karlovy Vary by Bus
If you want to go on a Karlovy Vary day trip independently, then the easiest and quickest way to do that is by bus. There are countless buses that depart from Prague and arrive in Karlovy Vary daily, however, it can be worth it to book as far in advance as possible in the more popular summer months.
RegioJet runs frequent buses that leave from Florenc bus station in Central Prague and arrive in Karlovy Vary about two hours later. If you can’t find a time that suits you here, FlixBus also offers the route frequently. You can book buses online in advance here.
Prague to Karlovy Vary by Train
Another popular option to get to Karlovy Vary is by train, however, this may not be the best choice if you’re going on a day trip. There aren’t as many direct trains as there are buses and the journey does take over 3 hours. Often, the only option is to take a route that requires a change – usually either in Pilsen or the town of Cheb.
Taking the train can be a good option if you want a bit more comfort and are planning more than a day trip, but if you want to travel to Karlovy Vary and back to Prague in the span of a day, your travel time is going to be in excess of six hours.
Prague to Karlovy Vary by Car
If you have your own vehicle, then getting from Prague to Karlovy Vary by car can be a great option as it is certainly the quickest and it will give you a lot of flexibility.
While you don’t need a car in Karlovy Vary itself (much of the city centre is pedestrianised, anyway), it can give you the option to leave whenever you want and maybe even visit a nearby town (for instance, Marianske Lazne or Frantiskovy Lazne) without having to deal with bus or train timetables and transfers.
The drive from Prague to Karlovy Vary is a bit under two hours if you manage to avoid traffic. Keep in mind that you will need to find and pay for parking while in the city.
If you want to rent a car for your Karlovy Vary day trip, then we suggest browsing Rentalcars.com in order to find great deals across a number of different car hire companies.
One Day in Karlovy Vary Itinerary
Now that you know how to get to Karlovy Vary, it’s time to figure out what to do on your day trip to this beautiful Czech spa city!
Start With a Caffeine Fix
Depending on when you arrive in Karlovy Vary, it can be a good way to start your day trip with a coffee or even a snack! There are lots of cafes in the city centre, but if you’re after a great cup of coffee, we recommend popping into Kavárna Lékárna.
Lékárna actually means pharmacy in Czech, but this is an artisan coffee place that makes great espresso drinks. They also have a tasty breakfast and lunch menu (and there are also cakes and croissants on offer) should you want something to eat as well. This makes for an excellent first stop to fuel up for a day of sightseeing.
Visit the Elisabeth Spa
The first historic stop on your Karlovy Vary day trip should be at the Elisabeth Spa, which is the first of the gorgeous early 20th Century spa buildings in the city. Constructed in 1906 and named after the eponymous Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria-Hungary, this grand spa is a perfect example of the art nouveau architecture that Karlovy Vary is so famous for.
The Elisabeth Spa is still a functioning spa today and you can book a treatment here if that interests you. However, it is just as worth taking in the beautiful building and even sitting on one of the benches that line the walkway leading to it.
Very close to the spa, you will also find the main post office of Karlovy Vary. While the post office itself is the same as any other post office in the country, the building that it is located in is absolutely gorgeous and another perfect example of the grandeur of early 20th Century architecture.
Take in the Colonnades
From the Elisabeth Spa, follow the Tepla River and you will reach some of the most iconic spots of Karlovy Vary – the Colonnades. These are grand porticos that sport geothermal taps of different temperatures. Locals and visitors alike love taking in the “healing” benefits of these waters by filling up a cup and drinking the salty, sulfuric water.
The main colonnades that you will come across on this walk are the Sadová Colonnade, the Mlynska Colonnade and the Trzni Colonnade among many others.
You will find free-flowing taps at various points throughout these colonnades where the temperature of the water is marked. It can be good practice to check the temperature of the water before touching it to avoid surprises (I speak from experience after putting my hand under a 72°C (161°F) tap and being very surprised).
You will also notice souvenir stands set up close to the colonnades that hawk the traditional cup for sipping the water. This can be a great, unique purchase in Karlovy Vary.
These ceramic cups (you can get one with a beautiful pattern of your choice!) have a straw moulded into the handle where you can sip the water you’ve filled from the tap. All you need to do after is feel the healing waters course through your body!
One of the unique colonnades to visit is the Vřídelní colonnade, a brutalist-style building that was erected in the 1970s. Inside, there is a small, steaming geyser that you can view for free.
See St Mary Magdelene’s Church
Not far from the Vřídelní colonnade is St Mary Magdelene’s Church – one of the most beautiful churches to take in in Karlovy Vary. While visiting churches is a mainstay of visiting most Czech cities and towns, Karlovy Vary is more about the spas and colonnades. However, that doesn’t mean a pit stop at St Mary Magdelene’s Church is a bad idea!
This 18th-Century church is known for its lovely Baroque architecture and its twinned domed spires and is something a little bit different from the other architecture in the city.
If you want to see another beautiful and unique church in Karlovy Vary, consider making your way to the St Peter and Paul Cathedral. This Russian Orthodox Church has beautiful golden onion domes and is notable here as there is quite a large Ukrainian and Russian population in this city.
So far, you’ve taken in quite a lot of sites and it’s likely that you’ve worked up an appetite! There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at in Karlovy Vary so it’s hard to make a bad decision, however, I would recommend eating away from the spas and colonnades where the restaurants can be a bit more expensive and tourist-centric. Instead, wander back to the city centre where you will find plenty of great options.
If you’re looking for a traditional Czech meal, then we recommend going to Restaurace Sklipek which has plenty of classic dishes at affordable prices.
Alternatively, consider heading to Hello Vietnam for fantastic Vietnamese food. The Czech Republic is home to one of the largest Vietnamese diasporas in Europe and there is a large community in the Karlovy Vary region, so it is a very appropriate cuisine to eat in this area.
Hike to the Peter the Great Monument
After lunch, it’s time to get moving again and enjoy some fantastic views of Karlovy Vary while working up a bit of a sweat! One of the best ways to do this is by hiking up to the Peter the Great Monument. From here, you can get some of the best views over the city and also enjoy the beautiful forest and hills that surround Karlovy Vary.
The hike is quite an easy one on a well-maintained and well-marked trail. No special shoes or equipment is needed – in fact, quite a lot of the hike is actually paved stairs.
Plan for the hike to take about 20-30 minutes depending on your fitness level. If you want to take a rest once you’ve made it to the top, there is a pub where you can get an affordable, cold and delicious beer!
If you have limited mobility or simply aren’t in it for a hike but would like a great view, then consider riding the funicular up to the Diana Monument. This is actually located a bit higher than the Peter the Great Monument and will result in plenty of spectacular vistas.
Stroll Along the Tepla
If you’re not too exhausted after your hike, consider wandering a bit more along the Tepla River. If you choose to wind your way away from the main town, you will quickly find yourself in peaceful and tranquil forest before reaching the Stepanka Spring, which is the furthest spring from the colonnades and also quite cool at 14.2°C (58°F).
If you choose to walk the other way, it’s a good opportunity to mosy back to the city centre. Make sure to take in the Hotel Thermal – another example of Brutalist architecture and home to the world-renowned Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
Enjoy a Drink
No visit to Karlovy Vary is complete without taking the time to have a beverage, and you’ve got a few options in regard to this.
If you want your alcohol to come with a bit of education, then consider heading to the Jan Becher Museum. This museum will take you through the history and distilling process of the local, herbal liqueur Becherovka and also give you a chance to sample some.
Alternatively, find a pub and enjoy an ice-cold beer. If the weather is fine, it’s always a good idea to find somewhere with outdoor seating. You can pretty much choose anywhere that looks good to you Karlovy Vary – you are in the Czech Republic, after all, where it is almost impossible to find a bad beer!
For those who don’t want any kind of alcoholic beverage and would prefer to visit a museum, the Museum of Glass Moser is a popular option for those interested in Czech Crystal.
Where to Stay in Karlovy Vary
If you’ve determined that you’d rather spend the night than go on a Karlovy Vary day trip, you’re going to need to find a place to rest your head. Fortunately for you, there are countless places to stay in Karlovy Vary that are sure to suit your needs. If you’re looking for an accommodation option, have a look at these suggestions:
Imperial Hotel – If you want to stay in one of the most iconic hotels in Karlovy Vary, then this is a fantastic choice. This luxury hotel is situated on a hill overlooking the city and has numerous amenities to ensure you have a luxe and relaxing stay. There is also a classic cafe on site and a spa offering numerous treatments. Click here to see their availability
Boutique Hotel Corso – Another plush option in Karlovy Vary, this centrally located hotel has a lot to offer guests. They have a number of lovely rooms on offer, a spa, wellness centre and swimming pool on site and there is even a restaurant on the premises. Click here to see their availability
Revelton Studios – If you’d like your own space in Karlovy Vary, then these fully-furnished studios are a great option. Centrally located within easy walking distance of the main sites in the city, there are a range of different studios to choose from, all with a fully-functional kitchen and comfortable amenities. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Karlovy Vary hotels!
Planning a day trip to Karlovy Vary is never a bad idea. Located only about two hours from Prague, this small spa city is absolutely beautiful and packed with plenty of interesting things to do.
Are you planning a Karlovy Vary day trip? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!